Ben Linfoot seeks out the value on day one of the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown while his best bet at Sandown comes in the Heroes Handicap Hurdle.
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The Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown takes centre stage on Saturday and British terrestrial TV viewers will be treated to three races from the track thanks to a late change to the schedule on ITV4.
What looked like a possible barren Saturday earlier in the week is now the complete opposite with nine races on the channel, including four from Sandown, as all the good stuff looks to have beaten the freeze.
While the Champion Hurdler, Buveur D’Air, looks to get back on the winning trail in the calmer waters of the 888Sport Contenders Hurdle at Sandown, Apple’s Jade, Supasundae and Melon bang heads in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle over the Irish Sea.
Given she’s been in the form of her life this season, and considering the 7lb sex allowance, Apple’s Jade can probably cope with the drop in trip to two miles and maintain her winning streak, although whether that would set up a clash with Buveur D’Air in March remains to be seen.
She’s a strong favourite and deserves to be so, and I’m keener to strike a bet in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase later on the card (3.45).
Le Richebourg and Knocknanuss set the standard and head the market in this race, and you can’t really argue with that on what they’ve done over fences so far.
But PALOMA BLUE was a better hurdler than both and at 9/1 (General) he’s worth a bet to leave his previous chasing form behind now he steps up a level on his third start over fences.
An eye-catching third in the Deloitte behind Samcro at this meeting last year, he ran a good race in fourth in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival but was quickly switched to chasing this season by trainer Henry De Bromhead, who excels with two-mile chasers.
His first go over fences was uninspiring at Navan in December, but De Bromhead’s horses weren’t really firing at the time and he improved hugely for the run when running out a good winner here at Leopardstown over Christmas.
I thought he had Real Steel’s measure when that rival departed at the last, but, either way, Willie Mullins’ horse franked the form in style next time with a 10-length win at Fairyhouse.
On the bare form of his Leopardstown run Paloma Blue has to improve to reach the current level of the first two in the market. But he can do. Not only does his hurdles form tell us there’s room for improvement, but he jumped tardily last time despite winning, losing ground at quite a few fences and especially so at the third last.
Still, that was the first time he’d finished his race well over a fence and if you could hand pick a trainer to iron out a few jumping issues then De Bromhead would be pretty high on the list.
De Bromhead has won this race twice in the last 10 years with An Cathaoir Moir and Some Plan, as well, and at 9/1 Paloma Blue is worth backing to further enhance his record in the contest.
Earlier on the card the Ladbrokes Hurdle is the big betting race with Charles Byrnes having a strong hand thanks to last year’s winner Off You Go and the hat-trick seeking Wonder Laish.
Neither have been missed by the market, though, and the same comment applies to Mullins’ Uradel who attracted support on Friday, so the one that stands out at the odds is Jessica Harrington’s JETEZ at 14/1 (General).
A half-brother to Jetz and from the family of Jezki (who also runs in this race, now aged 11), Jetez has taken time to get the hang of things over hurdles but he’s rapidly improving now with his last two efforts clearly the best of his career.
A three length victory in a 17-runner handicap at this track off an 8lb lower mark at Christmas bodes very well and he backed that up last time when chasing home Felix Desjy in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Moscow Flyer at Punchestown.
The winner got too much rope up front that day, but Jetez was the only one who made any inroads into his lead and he pulled 13 lengths clear of the rest of the field.
He looks fairly treated off 136 back in handicap company with that run in mind and the way he travelled here at Christmas suggests a big field like this suits him well.
Odds of 14/1 look very fair and, while I was going to leave it at that, I can’t resist a small each-way bet on Gordon Elliott’s CARTWRIGHT at 33/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5).
Elliott has yet to win this race, but he has gone close several times, including with outsiders, and I thought Cartwright shaped with plenty of promise when sixth last time out at Navan.
That was his first run of the season, but he went from last to disputing the lead rounding the turn for home under 5lb claimer Katie O’Farrell, only losing a few places towards the end.
The drop back to two miles looks a good move with that race in mind and he came on plenty for his seasonal return last year, beating Mullins’ Epicuris by 16-lengths in victory at Naas on his second start of the campaign.
That wasn’t his only good run as a novice, as he was fourth behind Hardline in a Grade 2 at the same track, before a Listed win at Navan and a good fifth at Punchestown, where he finished ahead of Sharjah, Getabird, Hardline and Paloma Blue.
Sent off 10/1 for the Galway Hurdle in the summer, things didn’t pan out for him that day but his SP there is an indication of his promise and that remains his only previous go over two miles in a handicap.
I think he’ll like the ground and with the blinkers back on and Bryan Cooper taking over in the saddle he could outrun his odds in a big way.
Finally, it does look like Sandown will beat the freeze and one bet on the card stands out with LUNGARNO PALACE available at 20/1 (General, ¼ 1,2,3,4) for the 888Sport Heroes Handicap Hurdle at 3.00.
This horse has been ultra-consistent since joining Fergal O’Brien, finishing in the first five in all seven of his runs for the stable with two victories, a second and two thirds to his name in that time frame.
His stable debut was an 11-length win on soft ground, so conditions should be fine for him, and he went some way to proving he stayed three miles last time at Warwick when a six-length sixth to Keeper Hill.
They didn’t go quickly that day, but that won’t have suited the selection and he ran on nicely in the closing stages, shaping as though a sterner test, which Saturday’s race will likely be, would suit.
He gets a 6lb pull with Keeper Hill on these terms and could well reverse that form, yet he is more than twice the price of that rival.
On top of this a few stats are in our favour. O’Brien has an excellent record at Sandown, winning 10 races from 35 runners at 29 per cent, including this race, while his record when applying a first-time tongue-tie in handicaps is also excellent, as he’s nine from 33 at 27.27 per cent in that scenario.
The tongue-tie and cheekpieces could be just what Lungarno Palace needs to improve that necessary few pounds more, and if he does he could have a big say off a low weight for a trainer that does so well here.
Ben Linfoot's Value Bet aim: The Value Bet is designed to generate long-term profit by searching for overpriced horses in the feature weekend races and at the big Festivals in the UK and Ireland. Running total: +349.49pts to advised stakes/prices (from inception of Value Bet column in January 2010 to current).
Posted at 1700 GMT on 01/02/19.
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